When the list of nontenders came out last Friday, the name most fans flocked too was Ty Wigginton, and rightfully so. The ex-Met had a career year last year, putting up a 128 OPS+ and clubbing 23 homers as the team’s regular third baseman until taking over leftfield for the injured Carlos Lee in August. With the Yanks in need of a utility man to replace, or at least compliment Cody Ransom, Wigginton would be an ideal fit. The problem is that he’d be hella expensive (he made $4.35M and has no reason to take a pay cut) and would likely opt for a full-time gig elsewhere (hellooooooo Twins) instead of sitting on the bench of the Yanks. So while most focused on Wiggington, another name grabbed my attention: ex-Marlins’ righty Joe Nelson.
You might be saying who, and that’s perfectly fine. Nelson didn’t reach the big leagues until age 26 (in 2001), when he made a 2 IP cameo from the Braves. Three years late he threw 2.2 IP for the Red Sox. Two years after that, at age 31, Nelson finally stuck in the big leagues with the Royals, finishing the 2006 season as their closer when Ambi Burgos was demoted to Triple-A. Unfortunately for Nelson, he torn his labrum late in the year, was designated for assignment, and missed all of 2007.
The Marlins grabbed him off the scrap heap, and he used his top-notch changeup to take over TEH 8Th INNiNg!11!one!! role for them after joining the team in May. His stats: 54 IP, 42 H, 60 K, 1.19 WHIP, 2.00 ERA. He showed no platoon split (.619 OPSA vs RHB, .612 vs LHB), pitched better away from the pitcher friendly confines of Dolphins Stadium (2.60 ERA at home, 1.37 on the road), and generated swings-and-missed on 27.6% of the pitches that hitters offered at (Tim Lincecum was at 25.9%). The Marlins did not tender him a contract because they didn’t want to pay him the $800,000 he was asking for, so now he’s shopping his services on the free agent market.
I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this post if I didn’t think Nelson would be a solid addition to the Yanks pen. While it was a strength for them last year, the natural volatility of relievers means back-up plans are needed. Plus it would be nice to have another veteran guy back there; you can’t run Mo, Marte and five kids out there every night. If he’s down for a minor league deal (12-14 teams have already been on him) with an invite to Spring Training, why not?
Use this as your open thread for tonight. Talk Joe Nelson, Browns-Iggles, Knicks-Suns, whatever. Just keep it civil.
This came up in a thread earlier today, but like the good commenters you are most of you kept with the thread topic rather than responding. Now let’s have a go at it. SI’s Jon Heyman reports that Andy Pettitte‘s agents claim that he has an offer in hand for three years and $36 million. Upon first glance, this screams “leverage play.” Pettitte has made it clear that he wants to pitch for the Yankees or retire, and the Yankees have not budged from their $10 million offer. Andy doesn’t want to take a pay cut, so the two sides are at an apparent impasse.
Can anyone think of a team willing to add that kind of payroll? I’ve heard the Rangers, but word was they’d have to free up money to sign Ben Sheets, who would come at a similar average annual value. Others say the Dodgers. I’ve even heard someone suggest the Mets.
Here’s what I think, and I expect all of you to add your two cents in the comments. 1) If Andy did get this offer, I encourage him to take it. He won’t find anywhere near that deal elsewhere. 2) This is a bogus rumor.
A tipster sent us some images from inside the new stadium, and I figured I’d share them with the RAB universe. Everything — including the clubhouse, above — is looking pretty nice. Click through for more.
You know, I never really got into fancy statistical analysis until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I understood the importance of OBP and detested RBI and pitcher’s wins as means of evaluating players, but stats like VORP, EqA, wOBP, WARP1, 2 and 3 never did much for me. But once I took the time I understand what goes into each stat and what exactly they represent, it became clear that fancy acronyms had a place in the game.
Projections however, well they’re still not exactly my cup of tea. Using numbers to examine what a player has done in the past is one thing, but using them to essentially predict the future is another. It’s an educated guess really, but an educated guess that can’t account for factors such as weather, injury, a sick child, etc. The crew at Baseball Prospectus does one hell of a job with their PECOTA projections, but in the end it’s all just a guess, a guess that shouldn’t be used for anything but fun.
While we wait for the Yanks to open their season with two new faces in their rotation, we can check out what sabermetric mastermind Bill James expects out of these players. Provided at the indispensable Fangraphs, James’ projections are a fun way for us fans to gaze into the future, to guess at what might become. The good stuff starts after the jump (don’t read anything into the order, it’s just alphabetical).
For the better part of the last few months, I’ve been pushing Manny as a potential piece for the Yanks’ lineup. The problem, of course, with Manny is his fielding. He has become a liability in the field almost to the point where an AL team that signs him would do so as a DH, and the Yankees already have a DH in the oft-injured Hideki Matsui.
Yesterday, in the comments to my brief piece on payroll, I got into a debate with long-time RAB fan Dan about Matsui and Manny. I believed that Manny would such a force that the Yanks should sign him now and worry about Matsui later. But Dan disagreed, and in a well-reasoned piece on The Poor Man’s Analyst, Dan offers up his take:
Let’s aggressively project Manny for 40 runs above average next season. He then gets a positional adjustment of -15 for playing DH instead of the outfield. [We don't need to compare him (or Matsui) to replacement because we're not figuring total value, which would be versus a replacement player, we're just comparing the two of them in similar playing time. If you really want to, add 16 or 17 runs to the total to approximate a replacement level comparison in slightly limited playing time (~140 games)]. So that’s 25 runs above average for Manny. Doing the same thing for Matsui now…. his 2007 had him as 20 runs above average in 143 games, so that’s 5 runs above average for Hideki.
So for 2009, Manny is projected to be 20 runs above what Matsui would provide. That’s probably what people expected, I know I didn’t think the gap wold be any smaller. But Manny is reportedly demanding a 3-year deal in the neighborhood of $65-70 million. Are those 20 runs worth the $11 million per win (over Matsui) that they would cost? Is any win worth $11 million?
I can’t tell you the answer, that’s for the Steinbrenners to decide. For those people who say it’s worth it, I’m going to spend a little time thinking of other ways the Yankees can get those two wins over what Matsui provides for less money. Anyone care to make any suggestions for finding those missing 20 runs?
That’s a compelling case against Manny with some not-so-outlandish statistical assumptions to back it up. Perhaps Mark Teixeira would be the better target after all.
Of course, there is a real problem though with Dan’s assumption about Matsui’s health. He’s played 140 games just once over the last three seasons. In 2006, he missed time due to a bad wrist break, but in 2007, even while playing 142 games, he suffered knee problems. His 2008 was cut short due to his balky knees, and while he was playing, his power was significantly off his 2007 mark.
My belief that Manny could fill a need comes about because I don’t think we can pencil Matsui in for 140 games of 2007 level production. He’s going to be 35 and playing on two surgically-repaired knees. To me, that’s a recipe for disaster, and if he goes down, the options to replace him are dire indeed if Nick Swisher is ensconced at first base.
Maybe Teixeira is a better fit because he’s younger and plays a position the Yanks need to fill. With Teixeira, Swisher becomes one of the outfielders who could replace Matsui if Hideki gets injured. With Manny, Swisher stays at first, and Manny flat-out replaces Matsui to start the season. Dan believes Manny is an expensive and unnecessary luxury, but I come out somewhere in the middle. Teixeira is choice number one, but Manny could work as well.
With the Winter Meetings behind us, baseball has a few weeks of activity before everyone settles in for some family time around Christmas and New Year’s. While the Yanks have seemingly wrapped up some of their shopping, I don’t think the team is done yet. With that mind, what’s on tap for the next few weeks?
1. Mark Teixeira — Outside of Manuel Aristides Ramirez, no hitter will make a bigger impact on his new team next year than Mark Teixeira. He’s a premier player with a legitimate Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger, and now that he’s shown he can hit outside of Texas, he’s due for a big pay day. Since mid-November, Teixeira has hoped for a pre-Christmas resolution to his free agency, and now it seems as though the Yanks are emerging as prime contenders for his services. No matter the outcome, you can bet that Scott Boras will call the Yanks one last time before Teixeira signs on the dotted line.
2. Manny Ramirez — Right behind Tex is Manny. He is arguably one of the top five right-handed hitters of all time, and his presence in any lineup improves the guys in front of and behind him. He comes with significant personality issues and poor defense, but that hasn’t stopped his teams from winning two of the last five World Series. His teams have made the playoffs in five of the last six years as well. Manny will come with a higher salary but fewer years than Mark Teixeira. He doesn’t come with the stellar defense either, but Hanks wants him.
3. Mike Cameron — Joe wants Brian Cashman to wait on the Cameron trade, and I agree. Cameron should be something of a last recourse to improve the team’s center field option. While better than Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner, Cameron isn’t enough of an offensive threat to justify acquiring him over Teixeira or Manny. If the team lands one of the other two bats, they can afford to try out Brett Gardner in center and revisit a Cameron trade later on, if need be.
* * *
So what’s my take? I think Teixeira signs before Christmas; I think Manny doesn’t; and I think the Cameron deal ends up being more smoke and mirrors than anything else. The Yanks still have some money to play with, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tex or Manny land in the Bronx. The team, after all, could use another bat to go with their new-found pitching, and if the Steinbrenners and Cashman are going all in for 2009 as their pitching expenditures seem to suggest, then signing Mark or Manny is just the next logical step.
The Winter Meetings may have passed, but it’s still relatively early in the baseball off-season. As you can see on our sidebar widget, there are still two months until pitchers and catchers report (the biggest day of the year on which nothing happens). That’s plenty of time for the Yankees to sift through their options and decide on the best course of action for the 2009 team. We’ve been debating this hotly in the comments, and aside from a few overzealous folks, most everyone is making cogent points.
I explained on Friday night that I think there are two paths the Yankees can take right now. First is to create a more balanced team. This would entail bringing back Andy Pettitte to fill the fourth/fifth slot in the rotation and trading for Mike Cameron. The lineup would then be filled with solid, established players (and a high-ceiling guy in Cano), and the rotation would be solid one through five. It would give the Yankees the depth to deal with an injury or two. It would give the team even more of a veteran presence.
The other path the Yankees can explore is an all-in push for 2009. By signing CC and A.J., the Yankees have begun such a movement. Adding a big bat like Manny Ramirez or Mark Teixeira (as we’ve heard from our favorite rumormonger) or even Adam Dunn would re-ignite the talks of a 1,000-run offense. The difference, of course, is that this year the Yanks have the pitching to match it. The lineup would be disgusting one through nine, and the rotation would still feature a top four you can place against any team in the league.
At this point, adding Cameron might hamper the team’s ability to sign one of the boppers on the market. While some cite the $88 million that came off the payroll after last season, that’s not the whole story. Some players are due raises, and others weren’t on the opening-day payroll (Marte, Nady). So let’s go through the team’s current commitments (plus arbitration estimates):
* AAV of contract
** Arb estimate
That totals $173.85 million in committed salaries for 15 players. That leaves 10 more players, likely for the most part under the reserve clause, which will keep their salaries in the $400 to $500,000 range. Even at the high end, $5 million for those 10 players, that leaves the Yanks with a $183.85 million opening day payroll. Notice how it’s right around the team’s stated goal of $180 million.
Still, we know the Yankees. They could find a way to squeeze another contract in there. Perhaps they backload A.J.’s deal, knowing that $26 million comes off the books from Damon and Matsui after the year. That would give them the flexibility now to add a bat and still keep the payroll under $200 million.
If you add Andy Pettitte, it’s almost impossible to add a bat without exceeding 2008′s payroll. Same with Mike Cameron. So the choices going forward:
1) Sign Pettitte. Sign bat. Screw payroll.
2) Sign Pettitte. Trade for Cameron. Go into season like that.
3) Let Pettitte retire or go elsewhere. Let Milwaukee pay Cameron’s salary. Sign big bat.
Without choosing one over the rest (though No. 1 is clearly the best option), this all leads me to believe that the Yankees should hold off on this Cameron deal. Wait until the rest of the bats are off the market so you can see where everyone else stands. Some might say that this would drive up the price for Cameron. Not so. At least, I don’t think it will. What other teams would be interested in a 35-year-old CFer making $10 million? That list begins and ends with the Yankees.
If the Yankees do add Teixeira or Manny or Dunn, they won’t have room for Cameron anyway. All three make the outfield rather crowded — Tex by moving Swisher there, Manny and Dunn because they play there. True, the later two could DH, but what about Hideki? You can’t blindly rely on him to play in 120, 130 games, but you also can’t relegate him to bench duty. He’s too good when healthy, and is making too much money.
Mike Cameron will still be available in January. The Yankees might as well wait on that and see if they can better improve the team with a better bat.
Ian Kennedy hasn’t pitched in eight days; not sure what’s up with that. Mayaguez has had a few scheduled off days and weather issues since he last pitched, so it could be that the rotation’s a bit off kilter. They don’t play again until Tuesday, so we’ll see if he gives it a go then. His last three starts have been dynamite (22 IP, 11 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 17 K).
The winter league notables:
- Melky Cabrera: 20 for 65 (.308), 13 R, 4 2B, 6 RBI, 8 BB, 8 K, 2 SB in 17 games
- Robbie Cano: 16 for 54 (.296), 13 R, 6 2B, 1 HR, 5 BB, 3 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP in 13 games … still more BB than K after 13 games? who is this man and what has he done with Robinson Cano?
- Frankie Cervelli: 11 for 43 (.256), 8 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 8 BB, 12 K, 1 CS, 1 HBP in 19 games
- Walt Ibarra: 14 for 71 (.197), 3 R, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 16 K, 3 SB, 1 CS in 33 games
- Ramiro Pena: 24 for 91 (.264), 10 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, 2 HBP in 26 games
- Jon Albaladejo: 13.1 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 WP in 11 appearances
- Wilkins Arias: 10.2 IP, 16 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 7 BB, 12 K, 2 WP, 1 HB in 16 appearances
Use this as your open thread for the evening. The Jets already won a bit of a nailbiter against the Bills, while the G-Men take on the Cowboys at 8:15pm. Brandon Jacobs is sitting this one with a bum knee, spelling certain doom for my fantasy team in Round One of the playoffs. Damn you tommiesmithjohncarlos, damn you to hell.
You know the deal, talk about whatever’s on your mind, just keep it kosher.
Picking up on Buster Olney’s argument is Ken Rosenthal. He notes that, while the Yanks have spent a lot of money so far, they’re still shedding payroll. With all the money coming off the books this year, the Yanks very well could sign another big-ticket player, and if that player ends up being Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez, I won’t be disappointed. · (175) ·
One of the implications of my post on fan sports coverage is that I’m not too enamored with most national personalities. So it was refreshing to see Buster Olney’s article on ESPN.com this morning (the relevant part is free). I was just going to set this as an aside, but there are some relevant passages I’d like to quote. A lot of it you read on RAB last week.
So the Yankees, in the end, were patient and got Sabathia, and the pundits who are saying that the team has blown up its plan for player development are simply not paying attention. In fact, the signings of Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are absolutely in keeping with the refocus on the farm system.
Because the Yankees waited to pursue Sabathia, rather than deal for Santana, they still have Hughes and Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson and all the players mentioned in the Santana talks, and as the pitching talent pool has increased at the major league level, there is now more time for those youngsters to develop. It’s actually been more than a decade since the Yankees have had as much minor league talent stacked up as they do now.
Yes, they will sacrifice draft picks, in landing Sabathia and Burnett. But keep in mind that the Yankees will have picks in the first and second round of the draft in 2009 because of players unsigned in 2008; it’s not as if they are being shut down.
Olney goes on to list the Yankees projected rotation, noting how it is considerably younger than that of past teams. Except last year, of course. This one, though seems a bit more balanced overall.
|CC (28)||Wang (28)||Wang (27)||Randy (42)||Randy (41)|
|Wang (29)||Andy (36)||Andy (35)||Wang (26)||Moose (36)|
|A.J. (32)||Moose (39)||Moose (38)||Moose (37)||Pavano (29)|
|Joba (23)||Phil (22)||Pavano (31)||Chacon (28)||Jaret (29)|
|Andy (37)||IPK (23)||Igawa (27)||Jaret (30)||Brown (40)|
So here’s what the Yankees have done so far this off-season:
1. Added the two top pitchers on the free agent market.
2. Retained all of their relevant prospects.
3. Kept payroll at worst to the 2008 level, probably shaving a bit.
Sounds like a good deal to me.